The way COVID-19 has driven a fundamental change in most people’s remote working arrangements and organizations’ adoption of digital technologies is likely to be studied for years to come.
Organizations that struggled with the concept of ‘digital’ had to scramble to provide their employees with ways to securely access work systems and files when working from home, collaborate and communicate when working from home due to the lock downs in place across the world, and rushed to use digital solutions—AI, bots, virtual collaboration tools—to connect with, and service the needs of, internal and external clients as their service centers were scaled down to the bare minimum. It was evident that enterprises had to become more fluid in their approach toward remote working to building a resilient digital workplace for a largely remote workforce.
Pandemic-spurred Digital Transformation
Employees, who only a mere couple of months ago would have answered “not on your nelly” if told they had to become digital workers working from home, are now being productive, and finding ways to stay connected with colleagues, thanks to digital technologies they would not have touched with a barge pole before Covid-19. Remote working in a digital workplace has become the new normal.
And millions of people working from home around the world have discovered digital communication tools for their digital workplace—Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, and WhatsApp, to name just a few—as a lifeline to sanity while in lockdown, to stay connected with colleagues, friends, and family.
I hate to contradict Kevin Costner, but when it comes to digital transformation, “if you build it, they will come” could not be further from the truth. About 40% of digital transformation projects are abandoned and another 44% see sketchy adoption of the digital technologies being rolled out. So, what is it about this pandemic that has people taking to ‘digital’ like ducks to water?
It Boils Down to People
As any digital adoption and change professional will tell you, adoption is not driven by the technology’s features or its availability. It is driven by people. Or, more accurately, by people’s awareness of the technology, their perception of its benefits, the skills and confidence they need to use it, and the systems—training, management practices, policies and processes—that enable them to adopt them into everyday practice.
And across it all, there needs to be a clear, immediate, and well-articulated imperative (need) for the introduction of the technology, and communication of the new ways of working, communicating and collaborating it will facilitate. People-centric change management is crucial to the success of any digital transformation.
The human need to stay connected and intellectually engaged, and to continue to earn a living by working from home, has provided the driver for adoption of digital tools. It is this clear and immediate need that has driven individuals’ awareness of the tools’ capabilities, features and benefits, and their willingness to learn how to use them and find ways to incorporate them into their everyday lives, both professional and personal.
And organizations’ requirement to remain productive and profitable while most of their workforce stays at home has driven home the fact that, if they wish to survive, they must invest time and resources to enable individuals to use digital tools effectively, leading to an unprecedented ramp-up in organizational communication and training to enable adoption of digital tools, mobilization of IT resources, and rapid changes to policies, processes and management approaches to support the change in working practices that would have been regarded impossible only a few months ago.
We can only hope that the lessons learnt from the way we all became digital by default in this pandemic will not be forgotten once the crisis abates.